New life for the “Tribe 7”

William & Mary reinstates all seven of their discontinued varsity sports…for now

~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~

As The Captain’s Log has covered at length this tumultuous semester, the College of William & Mary (W&M) recently cancelled seven out of their 23 that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division I on Sep. third. Included on the list of cuts were the Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field, Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Women’s volleyball. Former W&M Athletic Director Samantha Huge cited financial troubles that were accelerated by the 2020 COVID-19 epidemic. The seven sports were set to be officially terminated by the end of the university’s spring semester. 

Huge and W&M received national attention for their abrupt decision to discontinue the sports programs. Amidst the fiery backlash, the “Save the Tribe 7” petition was created and garnered hundreds of signatures within a few days. If W&M was not entrenched in enough hot water yet, they completely submerged themselves when Huge stepped down from the Athletics Director position on Oct. 6. While not citing the recent upheaval of negative attention as the reason for the long time director’s departure, W&M and Huge agreed to depart on agreed upon mutual terms. In her place, W&M’s President Katherine Rowe promoted Jeremy Martin to an interim director position until further notice. 

In addition, on Oct. 19 only one month after announcing the cancellation of the seven sports through an open letter to the W&M community, the university reinstated the three women’s sports that were set to end. The reinstitution occurred after the university received notice of an impending lawsuit on behalf of the female athletes who would be losing their team and potential path to the professional sports field. 

The lawsuit, brought on by Arthur Bryant of Bailey Glasser, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), was founded on the grounds that the university was breaking expectations and guarantees from the federal civil rights law, Title IX. When speaking on the subject, Bryant said, “From the perspective of the law and Title IX, this is about sex discrimination, plain and simple.” 

Now, a month after claims of litigation were presented to the university, W&M and Rowe announced they would put the cancellation of the other four men’s varsity programs on hold through at least 2021-22 academic year. That means they will remain amongst the top Division 1 programs in the country for at least one more season, should competition resume within that time frame. According to their official release from TribeAthletics.com, Rowe and the university would, “take a phased approach that allows for a gender equity review paired with exploration of alternative solutions leading to a long-term financial plan.” 

While many decisions are still left to be decided, Rowe did announce in her official notice to the W&M community and onlookers at large entitled “William & Mary Katherine A. Rowe Message” the next steps she and the university would take regarding the situation. Their first course of action will be allowing the programs to continue to exist while further research is done on how many programs the university can financially sustain in the upcoming years. The reinstatement of the men’s sports does not mean all the university’s budgeted monetary issues have been solved, and it does not mean money has been materialized and successfully allocated. It can also not go forgotten the women’s teams were reinstated under similar circumstances. They were restored for legal reasons, so in full transparency, W&M has not saved any money to this point. One must also remember the COVID-19 pandemic is still a very real threat with the number of cases worldwide increasing on a daily basis. 

Their second course of action will be to “complete an expedited gender equity review no later than Jun. 30, 2021.” The university will be looking to see what economic decisions they can make while still adhering to Title IX qualifications for the 2022-23 academic year and seasons. In doing their review, Rowe believes they will take into account any and all economic setbacks or withdrawals that could occur in each of the proposed decisions. What Rowe calls the “department’s recommendation on a financially viable gender equity plan” is slated to arrive by the deadline of Aug. 30, 2021. Tacked on to their second course of action is a focus on racial and LGBTQ+ inclusion as well. No specifications are given for what that means in terms of cutting or reinstating certain sports programs over others, but it falls under their pledge to inclusivity in the realm of athletics. 

The final plan of action to be enacted in the immediate future is to secure fundraising for each of their sports. On Feb. 1, 2021, W&M has scheduled the release of a “two-year fundraising plan” that will elucidate the managing costs for their sports programs. The plans of fundraising will forge off the back of labor already accomplished by the Tribe Club Executive Committee and William & Mary Foundation Athletics Sub-Committee. 

W&M plans to update the students, coaches and community quarterly when any new information needs to be presented. 2020 has been a volatile year to say the least, but W&M is attempting to right all the wrongs they have caused to their student athletes, the student athletes’ parents, the university’s coaches, former W&M athletes and alumni and any other person damaged by the cuts. But once again, the reinstatement of the male teams are only temporary at the moment. Only time will tell the fate of Tribe athletics. 

Rowe’s official statement: https://tribeathletics.com/news/2020/11/5/general-william-mary-president-katherine-a-rowe-message.aspx

TribeAthletics.com quote obtained from:https://tribeathletics.com/news/2020/11/5/general-university-resets-process-to-determine-long-term-sustainability-for-w-m-athletics.aspx

Information on Huge’s resignation obtained from: https://www.wm.edu/news/announcements/2020/path-forward-for-athletics-kar.php

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